May 14, 2004 spout

The Advice of Our Fathers

Being a Midwesterner, my father is a fairly stoic man and, unlike his son, doesn’t often speak just to hear the sound of his own voice. Still, I’ve managed to pick up a few gems over the years that my own sons are now forced to hear often, like If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” It’s the hard things that are worth doing,” and It’s easy to figure out the right thing to do – it’s the hardest” (do you detect the Midwest work ethic in any of these sayings? : ).

When I was having trouble with a pair of 6th graders (I was a 3rd grader), he said, Don’t start a fight, but make sure that you end it” (that was hard to implement…).

When I went off to college, he said, Don’t go to bed drunk” (I always regret it when I ignore this piece of advise…).

When I broke something of my wife’s and wasn’t contrite enough, my father, working on wife #3 at the time, said to me, You’ve got to be nice to your wife!”

But the one that sticks with me most, the one I hear in my head almost every time I make a sandwich (and the one that caused me to write these words) is “Don’t get the God Damn jelly in the God Damn peanut butter!” To this day, with my father 1500 miles away in Fargo, I still make sure that there’s no jelly on my knife when I reach for the peanut butter.

It’s funny what unintended impressions you leave on people. I wonder what about me will haunt my children?